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The Beginner’s Guide To Tourniquets

This guide teaches you how to wrap a tourniquet. These devices are used in emergencies every day. A recent study revealed that tourniquet usage increases the odds of survival by a massive 600%.

The most vital things to keep in mind about using tourniquets are:

  • They are not a last resort. If you see blood pouring or spurting out of a limb (tourniquets will only work on limbs) is great, then use a tourniquet.
  • Tourniquets must be very tight and between the injury and the heart. So tight that it feels worse than the problem many times.

Look for arterial bleeding

Always remember that bright red spurting blood is a bad sign. Arteries carry blood from your heart. Blood coming from an artery spurts in a rhythm because it is nearer to the pressure of the heart. Arterial blood is bright in color due to it being filled with oxygen.

Remember: Dark red = vein, bright red = artery

Veins carry ‘old’ blood back into the heart. This bleeding is usually deep red and slow. The slowness is because it’s later in the process of blood recycling, so the pressure is less. And the deep color is because its oxygen has been used up as it went through the process.

Both types are dangerous. But bleeding from an artery can be much faster due to how near it is to the pressure.

It takes blood only one minute to travel through the human body. Causing even single artery wounds (even on a smaller artery) to produce a deadly amount of blood loss in only a few minutes.

But it is not only blood volume that is of concern. In just 30 seconds, someone can lose enough blood to lower their blood pressure down low enough so the brain can not function, causing them to pass out.

How to use a tourniquet correctly:

Tourniquets are actually simple to use. You’re simple applying pressure surrounding a limb in order to collapse the vessels and block the flow of blood — like cutting off a hose by pinching it.

A quick example of how to use a tourniquet:

The basics you would learn during tourniquet class:

  1. Tourniquets are for limbs, not the head, neck or core body.
  2. Avoid the armpits and groin joints — those require “junctional” tourniquets, but those are not worth having on hand for most situations.
  3. If you don’t see where the bleeding is coming from, or the wound is hard to get to, you can just put it on as high up as possible.
  4. If you see where the wound is and can get to the area, place the tourniquet a few inches higher than the wound.
  5. Apply it close to the skin. Don’t be scared to cut away clothing.
  6. Tourniquets should be very tight to work. In fact, many victims say the tourniquet was more painful than the injury.
  7. Make sure the tourniquet is as tight as possible by hand before using the lever.
  8. Using the lever (usually a bar you twist by hand) might get physically difficult as the tension increases.
  9. Most people stop turning half a turn too soon, so go further than you might want to.
  10. Check that there is no arterial blood leaking — you might have to make the tourniquet tighter if it is.
  11. Once you have the blood-loss controlled, work on using pressure and bandages to control the wound while looking for expert help.
  12. Keep track of the time you put the tourniquet on. That way you can tell how long ago it has been seen the tourniquet was put on.
  13. If you believe you have the bleeding stopped, you can loosen it a tiny bit to see if the arterial bleeding has started up again — but do not remove it completely in case you need to re-tighten it again quickly.
  14. It’s ok to use an additional tourniquet if you need to. For example, for obese or large legs, but put the new one closer to the heart compared to the first one.

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